The college scrambled for more than two weeks trying to make good on a promise administrators made to students that the classes they took in Extended Spring would be transferable for Fall 2013.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since first posted

 

The college scrambled for more than two weeks trying to make good on a promise administrators made to students that the classes they took in Extended Spring would be transferable for Fall 2013.

The cancellation of the Winter Session left a lot of students unable to transfer because they wouldn’t be able to complete the number of units needed in the spring. But the administration guaranteed students that it would schedule courses the college would call Extended Spring, which they said would allow the classes to be accepted by the universities.

However, the college moved ahead with its plans without getting approval from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. When the Chancellor’s Office ruled that the college could not label transcripts as Extended Spring, the administration realized the severity of its mistake. They were informed that all of the classes had to be labeled as “summer,” according to Robert Bell, senior vice president of student and learning services.

No universities accept classes labeled “summer” on transcripts for the upcoming fall term.

Bell and a team of counselors and college staff began lobbying each university to take the units so students wouldn’t be penalized.

The UC and CSU systems, with the exception of CSU San Diego and CSU San Jose, are allowing a one-time only exception for PCC students who successfully completed Extended Spring, even though the classes are labeled as “summer” on transcripts.

Patricia McCormick, television production major, was one math class away from transferring to CSU SD when she spoke with a counselor at the school who warned her there was no guarantee the Extended Spring classes would transfer for the fall.

“I talked to the counselor to tell me what was going on. I wanted to know if I could take any summer classes for transfer. She pretty much told me there was no guarantee the classes would be accepted,” she said.

McCormick also said the counselor advised her to take her math class at a different community college because “they didn’t know what PCC was doing,” she said.

She plans to go to Palomar City College in San Diego County this fall so she can be sure to transfer to CSUSD next year.

“I’m irritated, because I got put back another year for transferring. I’m disappointed with PCC in general,” she said.

Early Warning Signs

While many shared governance groups, including staff, faculty and students on campus, warned the administration repeatedly that the universities would not accept Extended Spring classes, the administration went ahead with its plan.

As early as Feb. 8, the Chancellor’s Office warned the college that it may fall out of compliance with Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations if it proceeded, but the administration went forward anyway.

The college learned in early June that the Chancellor’s Office ruled that the college was not in compliance with Title 5, according to emails between Bell and the Chancellor’s Office.

They were told if the Extended Spring term remained non-compliant, the college would be at risk of losing up to $16 million in Proposition 30 funding, according to Robert Miller, senior vice president of business and college services. Administrators moved quickly to correct the situation.

On June 24, the counseling office sent out an email to the 8,400 students who attended the Extended Spring term stating the classes they were taking would be labeled as “summer” on their transcripts and instructing students with concerns to contact them.

At least 200 students contacted the college through a student services hotline and form found at Pasadena.edu/complete. More than 190 of the students who aired concerns with their transfer are being granted admission by their respective universities, Bell said. The college has until July 15, the transfer deadline, to ensure all students who experienced problems will get their units accepted for fall.

Putting Strategy Into Action

The college called and emailed more than 20 universities using 10 groups consisting of up to three counselors and administrators each, known as Transfer Success Teams.

Bell believed that the strategy allowed for the teams to “hyperfocus” on specific universities and students who were at risk of losing their transfer units.

“With each respective team, they have taken the lead [these last weeks],” said Bell. “They are carrying direct advocacy for students.”

Dean of counseling Cynthia Olivo created the “complete transfer” form and opened a hotline for students who were concerned about transfer in late June.

“The teams were able to get that information and reach out to the institutions. We separated by [the] universities students applied to,” she said. “We really wanted to make sure that students could enter into the institution[s].”

Bell said the stress from having students at risk was pushed aside with the aid of the teams.

“You go through all of the anxiety, but [we’ve] stayed focused to work to keep students unharmed,” he said. “It’s all of the teams, though. They have done a miraculous job. It’s not much short of a miracle.”

But many argue on campus that the problem wouldn’t need resolving if the administration had heeded warnings from various shared governance groups on campus.

Former Associated Students President Simon Fraser said the Extended Spring fiasco could have been completely avoided if the shared governance process was followed.

“Respect the process which is designed to fully consider decisions like this and avoid the malpractice that we’ve had this year.”

Robert Miller, senior vice president of business and college services, argued personally that it was never his intention to inflict harm on students, and that the Transfer Success Teams show the college’s effort in resolving a problem with transfer.

“At the end of the day, nobody wanted to harm students,” he said. “ We acted in good faith. We decided to do what we considered was best for students. That’s what we’re here for.”

Fraser, currently the District Students trustee, hopes the winter intersession issue will be revisited by the board.

“I hope the Board of Trustees will be receiving an agenda item on how our calendar should look for the future that is fully comprenhensive and takes into the account all of the issues that an academic calendar has and not just the negotiable impact,” he said.

Comments

  1. Faculty, staff and administrators make considerations based on what’s best for the students. Obviously no harm is intended – otherwise we wouldn’t be in this field. Intentions are one thing – not making decisions based on sound evidence and after careful examination of all angles while adhering to a sound shared governance process, is another. Administrators and Board members’ insistence on making unilateral decisions is hardly ‘good faith’. Throwing the students under the bus over funding instead of transfer acceptance and then not even notifying them as soon as their own incompetence is called out by the Chancellor’s Office is not ‘good faith’. PCC needs to MOVE FORWARD and immediately remove the administrators who have gotten us where we are today. Playing with students’ lives, without justification or explanation, without at least a year of careful planning, is not ‘good faith’, and damage control (Transfer Success Teams) is not a replacement for competence.

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